Big Band Scene (March 2018)

Patrick Billingham looks at the most common big band layouts.

 

    This month’s Big Band @ Brunswick features Big Band Sounds. I had the pleasure of depping with this band recently at a rehearsal. They still need regular trombonists and a trumpeter. If you are able, and willing, to help out, please contact Darren Vassie, ukbigbandsounds@gmail.com. 

    At last month’s Big Band @ Brunswick, The One World Orchestra maintained the layout that I mentioned earlier. Saxes in a row behind the trombones, the rhythm section at the front and the trumpets lined up to the left, as seen by the audience. 

    This made me think about big band layouts in general, and to start discussing some of the factors involved. If we go back to the 1930s and 1940s when seventeen piece American big bands were top of the pops, playing on large stages, the horns were usually arranged with the saxes sitting in a line at the front.  Behind them, the trombones, and at the back, the trumpets.  Which layout is still largely favoured some seventy years on. The logic behind this seems to be that on a flat, or gently sloping stage, the trumpets could stand as they have the lightest instruments.

    On large stages the rhythm section would be to one side. Where the bandleader was a pianist, such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie or Stan Kenton, he would direct the band from the piano in front of the guitar (if any), the bass and the drums. Which is shown clearly in this archive photograph of the Basie orchestra.

    Horn playing leaders would usually play and direct the band from the front, rarely playing among the rest of the section. The photograph of the band led by clarinettist Artie Shaw illustrates this.

ca. 1940, USA — Jazz clarinetist Artie Shaw leads his band during a scene from the movie Second Chorus in 1940. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

    The other photograph shows that this layout continued with the great post war British Ted Heath band. And, as they say on the BBC, other layouts have been available, and I plan to discuss some of them in future months. Meanwhile, there is the question of how well the various sections of the band could hear each other.  In particular could the trumpets hear the saxes? And if not, how did these bands manage to sound so great so precisely together? I should like to receive your ideas on this.

 

    The 2018 Brighton Festival brochure has been published. Again there seems to be a total lack of big band activity.  Although there has been at least a 100% increase in the jazz on offer, with more than one event.  I know that, as ever, the Fringe will be more forthcoming. I shall comment further next month when that programme is available.

    I am aware that so far this column has tended to focus on the Brighton area.  I hope, as the weather improves, to get around Sussex a bit more and see some of the bands in other parts of the county.  Meanwhile, I shall be very happy to receive reports and reviews from these locations.  

 

    Next month:  Hopefully more news about the big bands based in, and appearing in, the county, and hopefully another band profile.  If you would like your band featured, and I have not already contacted you, please get in touch.  Or if there is anything else, such as gig news, or feedback on this column, that you would like me to include in April’s Big Band Scene, please send it to me by Sunday March 25th.  My email address is g8aac@yahoo.co.uk. 

 

Big Band Gigs

March – early April 2018

[R] means a residency

bold italics part of a regular series

 

Thursday 1st March

[R] 7:30 pm, The Maestro Big Band with Nicki Day at the Hope Inn, West Pier, Newhaven, East Sussex BN9 9DN (01273 515389).  Free entry  

 

Sunday 4th March

[R] 12:45 – 3:00 pm, Sounds of Swing Big Band at The Horseshoe Inn Hotel, Posey Green, Windmill Hill, Herstmonceux, East Sussex BN27 4RU (02035 645225).   Free entry. 

7:30 – 10:00  pm, Big Band @Brunswick: Big Band Sounds at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.

 

Tuesday 6th – Saturday 10th March

7:30 – 10:00 pm, (also 2:30 – 5:00 pm Wednesday & Saturday)  The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas, with Big Band, featuring a celebration of Ella Fitzgerald at Devonshire Park Theatre, 8, Compton Street, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 4BW, (01323 412000).  £23.50 – £33.50 (depending on the performance).

 

Wednesday 7th March

[R] 8:30 pm, The Fred Woods Big Band at the Horsham Sports Club, Cricketfield Road, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 1TE, (01403 254628).  £2 (Club members free.)

 

Sunday 11th March

2:30 pm, The ConChord Big Band present Best of the Big Bands at the Chequer Mead Theatre, De La Warr Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 3BS, (01342 302000). £14/£12 All profits to be donated to Age UK.

 

Tuesday 13th March

[R] 8:00 – 10:30 pm, The Ronnie Smith Big Band at The Humming Bird Restaurant, Main Terminal Building, Shoreham Airport, West Sussex,  BN43 5FF (01273 452300).  Free entry with collection.

 

Sunday 18th March

[R] 12:00 – 3:00 pm, Groovin’ High Big Band at the Ravenswood Country House Inn, Horsted Lane, Sharpethorne, West Sussex RH19 4HY, (01342 810216).   Free entry.

 

Friday 23rd March

7:30 pm, Frankly Sinatra: Stephen Triffitt with big band, at The White Rock Theatre,White Rock, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 1JX, (01424 462288). £26.25/£24.05.

 

British Summer Time begins.

 

Friday 30th March

 [R] 8:30 – 11:00 pm, The Les Paul Big Band at Patcham Community Centre, Ladies Mile Road, Patcham, Brighton BN1 8TA, £5.  For further details contact Steve (01273 509631) steven_paul1@yahoo.co.uk (Bring your own refreshments.)

 

Sunday 1st April

[R] 12:45 – 3:00 pm, Sounds of Swing Big Band at The Horseshoe Inn Hotel, Posey Green, Windmill Hill, Herstmonceux, East Sussex BN27 4RU (02035 645225).   Free entry.

7:30 – 10:00  pm, Big Band @Brunswick: The Chris Coull Big Band at The Brunswick, 3, Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF (01273 733984).  Free entry with collection.

 

Wednesday 4th April

 [R] 8:30 pm, The Fred Woods Big Band at the Horsham Sports Club, Cricketfield Road, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 1TE (01403 254628).  £2 (Club members free.)

 

Thursday 5th April

 [R] 7:30 pm, The Maestro Big Band with Nicki Day at the Hope Inn, West Pier, Newhaven, East Sussex BN9 9DN (01273 515389).  Free entry.